Appearing at his last annual news conference as president of Russia, Vladimir Putin repeated a threat to "retarget our missiles" at Poland and the Czech Republic if the US builds a planned defense shield there. Ukraine also could be targeted if it joins NATO and allows its soil to be used for Western military operations, he said. But Russia isn't "interested" in a return to cold war-style confrontation with the West, Putin said, contending that "the solution of social and economic problems" are "our main tasks." Russians are to vote March 2 on his successor. Above, a Moscow appliance store clerk watches Putin on a flat-screen TV set.

At Iran's request, a fourth round of meetings on improving security in Iraq will not be held Friday, the US Embassy said. No new date was set. An embassy spokeswoman said, "We're happy to sit down for the talks, but it's increasingly clear that Iran is not." The US has used them to press Iran to stop arming and training Shiite militants in Iraq. Iraq's government announced, however, that Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make his first visit to Baghdad March 2-3 for talks with senior officials.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called a news conference for Friday evening to announce details of a new agreement signed by both sides in Kenya's postelection crisis. But there were signs that it falls short of a final settlement. A source close to Annan's mediation efforts said the parties had adjourned for the weekend in "acrimony." The negotiations were to resume Monday. Meanwhile, angry supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga threatened to stop heeding his calls for calm unless he emerges from the talks as "our president."

A plot to assassinate Philippines President Gloria Arroyo and bomb foreign embassies in the Philippines has been uncovered, military officials said. They attributed the plan to terrorist groups with ties to Al Qaeda and said it called for her to be shot by a sniper. As a result, her schedule over the next several days is "under assessment," the officials said. Arroyo is widely unpopular, and opposition leaders scoffed at the report, suggesting it was aimed at discouraging turnout for a planned protest Friday to demand her resignation.

Exiled Georgian opposition leader Badri Patarkatsishvili apparently died of natural causes, police in Britain said Thursday after an autopsy. But they said they'd wait for results of toxicology tests before ruling out the possibility of foul play in his death earlier this week near London. Patarkatsishvili claimed late last year that he was a target for assassination for leading protests against President Mikhail Saakashvili's government.

Rebuilding efforts after weeks of harsh winter storms will cost China's government more than $1.2 billion, officials said. Analysts said it was notable that the Civil Affairs Ministry also went out of its way to praise the People's Liberation Army as the "backbone" of relief efforts during the storms, whose cost has been estimated at $15.5 billion. Above, workers position a replacement pole to prop up a power line that fell in one of the storms.

Powerful earthquakes rocked southern Greece two hours apart Thursday, and seismologists predicted strong aftershocks would follow. The temblors, with magnitudes of 6.5 and 6.4, respectively, were felt as far away as Egypt. Except for causing the evacuation of homes, commercial buildings, and schools, however, there were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

Work on a California-sized marine reserve off Kiribati is complete, and the Pacific island nation has applied for UN World Heritage site status to promote it as a tourist attraction, reports said Thursday. At 158,500 square miles, the reserve is the world's largest – more than twice the area that Kiribati pledged to set aside at the UN's 2006 biodiversity conference in Brazil.

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